Simon Brod
Jacques Charles Hears the News

           The first, untethered, manned flight took place by Montgolfière, on November 21st, 1783

           Charles’s Law states V=kT, where V is the volume of the gas, T is the
           temperature of the gas (measured in kelvins), and k is a non-zero constant.

Perish that pair of paper-making parvenus!
Pretend all they will, with their painter-decorator friend,
they’ve nothing new to add to what Kongming
achieved fifteen hundred years ago.
Such primitive technology! They haven’t the first
idea what they are playing with, the witless wonders
claim the lifting power’s in the smoke!—
as if all the advances of our enlightened age
stood for nothing. The only thing they know
is how to bloat and bask in their own hot air.
Blast their oversized lantern, and blast my luck!
Just two more weeks and my gas-filled invention
would have got there first.
                                                               But, pasting the King’s face,
bold as sunshine, to the side, so His subjects could see
Him float overhead…you have to admit, it grabbed
the nobs and half-wits, the crowd watched open-mouthed.
And our Sovereign’s smile seemed to widen
from having smoke blown up the royal arse.
Even a fool could have seen what would happen next:
the swirl of burning cinders from the fire,
the monstrous face all pock-marked with flaming holes.
Thank God no-one was harmed.
                                                               You mark my words:
once my machine has taken to the skies,
nobody will want to fly a paper bag.
This episode will fold into a footnote,
an oddball folly used to illustrate
a universal scientific law:
the hotter you make the air, the more it rises.